This is the 9th annual exhibition of contemporary Indian art, but for me, this was my first time going to this event. I have to admit that I've never been to an ethno-centric "survey" group show and I don't usually travel to the deep outer boroughs to see art. Yes, I'm a stereotypic outer-borough snob, but the idea of the show interested me and it was an easy ride on the 7 train to one of the most bustling neighborhoods you could imagine.
As expected, this group show was a real mixed bag of work made by artists whose only connection is their Indian or South Asian heritage. There was a lot of work included in this show, but the proximity of each piece next to each other wasn't uncomfortable or claustrophobic. A quick survey of the space and it was clear that there were "Indian" themes everywhere and for the most part, it was easy to assess that much of the work had an exploratory or referential bias to the artists background and history. Because this is billed as a "contemporary Indian art" exhibition or survey, it's hard to be too critical of the work. Most of the pieces were decently executed, some with clearly greater "craft" or knowledge of their materials. The majority of the work was 2D, which was disappointing, but there were a few installation and more sculptural pieces. There was a low platform of what seemed to be a cast tongues. The title being "Master's Tongue Sculptures". It could have been more interesting if there was a greater sense of what it referenced even a back story. Most of the time this isn't needed, but because it's a survey, it may have lost some of its power.
For me, the highlight of the exhibition were the 2 paintings of Reet Das. Granted, by the nature, subject matter and execution of this work, I would not have assumed that they were made by someone of Indian heritage. The paintings stand on their own, independent of race or gender. They have an exquisite, delicate quality to them and I could almost feel how much pain-staking time it might have taken to finish them. They are a swirl of fish, birds, mermaids, jellyfish, and colorful lines that are heavily layered. I could have looked at one of the paintings for hours because I would see new things in the work each time my eyes scanned the surface. They read like a multitude of events all taking place at the same time, however, ever changing in their juxtaposition. Some other noteworthy artists include Anujan Ezhikode, Uday Dhar, and Ela Shah.
This exhibit will be up for a month in Queens and then will travel to the Bronx. I wouldn't categorize this as a standard group show. It's diverse, eclectic, and at times eye-opening. Go see it!